The leaders of Notre Dame got a New York Times op-ed to argue that their incredibly wealthy institution can’t possibly treat their athletes as employees. My God. MY GOD! EMPLOYEES! (hair piece twitches, pince nez falls off) It is the typical blah blah education blah blah (as if D-1 athletes are even allowed to have half-normal college experiences, including being allowed to take in person courses or major in anything that might interfere with practice time though Notre Dame is something of an exception to this). In fact, in my 12 years at URI, I have never taught a football or basketball or baseball player. And URI isn’t even a very good athletic institution. Those “students” are just taking on-line or specialized courses for them, which is also how they often graduate in 3 years now.
In any case, you can read the whole thing if you want. But I’d just read Andy Staples at The Athletic who just goes double barrel on Notre Dame. Even though it is a pay site, putting up an excerpt of this is a good example of why you might want to subscribe, so here is the key point:
If you don’t want to read all that, here’s a short translation…
We don’t want to solve the issues we’ve created. So it would be super cool if all you guys solved our problems without us having to do any actual work. Thanks.
Instead of trying to find a way to pay revenue-sport athletes their market value as athletes, school administrators complain about the name, image and likeness system foisted upon them by state legislatures who grew tired of seeing schools break the Sherman Act in an effort to keep anyone from providing athletes anything beyond tuition, room and board. Swarbrick and Jenkins are correct that this did result in a sham system, but they conveniently leave out the reason.
The market wants to pay athletes for their value as athletes, and the schools — through the NCAA — forbid this. So the market, as it always does, has devised another way to provide that compensation.
Swarbrick and Jenkins want Congress to declare that athletes aren’t employees even though making athletes employees and then collectively bargaining with them would actually solve many of the problems that vex them so. Essentially, Swarbrick, Jenkins and their ilk would like someone else to fix the mess they themselves made. Neither Congress nor the NFL nor the NBA should let them off the hook. The people running the schools cashed the checks. They can, and should, figure it out on their own.
Imagine that! A union! I can already see Notre Dame’s administration rubbing that rosary in horror.
Seriously, all you have to do to solve all these NIL problems is to lay down rules in a collective bargaining agreement and then have both sides enforce that contract like any other workplace. But to do that would cut through all the bullshit that the NCAA and leading college administrators have pushed for decades. They are desperate now that the Supreme Court shoved a gigantic cream pie in their collective faces. But they have no desire to solve any of these problems so they beg others to do it for them without having to admit that the athletes generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year deserve any of it.
Notre Dame, which has its own TV contract with NBC for home football games, reported $136.7 million in football revenue in its 2021-22 school year submission to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics database. That is a far cry from the $544 million the NFL’s Washington Commanders made in fiscal 2021, but it’s still a massive business. It’s a business people such as Jenkins and Swarbrick have built over the course of decades, and they’ve done a wonderful job of growing it. Of course, it’s easier to do that when you don’t have to pay taxes and you’ve spent decades colluding with your competitors to keep a huge portion of your labor costs flat.
And that’s just the TV contract! Never mind the ticket sales, all the merch, all the students who attend and then pay for a Notre Dame education so they can be part of the glory of occasionally sneaking into the playoffs to get blown out by any given SEC team.
Moreover, the Notre Dame administration just flat out lies in the op-ed about how this would affect women’s sports:
Now let’s tackle another chestnut that Jenkins and Swarbrick predictably included. If athletes in revenue sports are considered employees, schools will stop sponsoring sports that lose money. They claim (correctly) in the op-ed that many women’s sports didn’t exist before the advent of Title IX. Then they go right to the fearmongering. Those sports will be eliminated if we have to pay the quarterback what he’s worth on the open market, they warn.
That is only true if people such as Jenkins and Swarbrick don’t care about those other sports as much as they claim. Let’s break down the numbers.
In the op-ed, Jenkins and Swarbrick write that Notre Dame sponsors 24 varsity sports. Notre Dame’s athletics website only lists 20, but that number could be stretched if indoor and outdoor track and swimming and diving are split into separate sports and the fencing team (listed as co-ed) is split into two teams. In that 2021-22 school year submission to the Department of Education, the school listed its total athletic department revenues as $215.3 million.
That database reaches back to the 2002-03 school year. That year, Notre Dame reported $89 million in athletic revenue. (About $141.5 million in today’s dollars.) Given the massive jump in revenue, we should assume Notre Dame recently added many of these sports because it could suddenly afford them. Shouldn’t we? Care to guess how many sports Notre Dame has added since 2003?
According to a Notre Dame spokesperson, the Fighting Irish haven’t added a new varsity sport since women’s lacrosse in 1997. The school managed to field all those same teams when it was making significantly less than it does now, but Swarbrick and Jenkins want you to believe it suddenly won’t be able to afford them if some of the money goes to the football players bringing in the bulk of the revenue. They also conveniently omit that Notre Dame is due for athletics revenue surges when the expanded College Football Playoff begins in 2024, when Notre Dame makes its new media rights deal ahead of the 2025 season and when the CFP starts its new rights deal in 2026.
Why it’s almost as if we shouldn’t trust the upper administration of universities, a great a bunch of lying bastards that have ever existed in this fine nation.
Of all the terrible and completely unnecessary New York Times op-eds over the decades, this has a strong case for the single worst, at least in the not overtly political department.